Daisy's Back in Town
I can’t quite bring myself to call protagonist Jackson Parrish a hero when jerk, alternately modified by obnoxious, arrogant, and (most aptly of all), juvenile do a far better job of accurately representing the character and his actions. Add in the very familiar setting and premise (big city woman returns to small Texas town), the heroine’s jerk-enabling behavior, and an unfortunately wacky (and not in a good way) subplot involving the heroine’s sister, and the result is a major disappointment from a writer a lot of us count on to deliver far, far, far better books.
The story centers around the return of heroine Daisy Lee Brooks to the small town of Lovett, Texas. After suffering through the painful and protracted ordeal of her husband’s death from cancer, the Seattle resident comes to the town of her childhood for a specific reason: To tell childhood love Jackson Parrish that he has a fifteen year old son.
Daisy, Jackson, and her deceased husband Stephen formed a triad of best friends from childhood through high school. Though both Stephen and Jack were attracted to Daisy, the “deal” made by the two was that, to preserve the friendship held so dearly by them all, that neither would drink at Daisy’s pond. But Jackson and Daisy – hey, high school hormones and all that – eventually succumb to youthful lust behind Stephen’s back, with Daisy’s pregnancy the eventual result.
Said pregnancy, however, occurs at a most inopportune time. Jackson has just dumped Daisy for the umpteenth time and, at, virtually the same time, lost his parents in a car crash. Fortunately, the understandably desperate Daisy has someone other than the remote and inaccessible Jackson to turn to in her time of crisis. Reliable Stephen steps up to the plate, marries the pregnant Daisy (with full knowledge of who the father is), and proceeds to be both a loving husband and wonderful father to Daisy’s son Nathan for the next 15 years.
Without any knowledge of Daisy’s pregnancy, Jackson sees the sudden marriage between his two best friends as the ultimate betrayal – one that is magnified by their abandonment of him in his time of crisis. As Ms. Gibson tells us many times, this has left a “burning hole in his gut” that not even his muscle-car restoration business and an endless string of bimbos can erase. So, when Daisy returns after 15 years insisting on speaking with him, what else can Jackson do but rebuff her in as cruel a manner as possible at every turn?
Well, I have a suggestion for him: Grow up. It never seems to occur to Jackson (though his brother does, at least, point out the first of these) that:
- He dumped Daisy;
- He betrayed Stephen with Daisy; and
- This all happened in high school.
Unquestionably, Daisy did a dumb thing in not telling Jackson about her pregnancy, but people do dumb things when they’re 18. A little less understandable, however, is her continued insistence in hand-delivering Stephen’s tell-all letter (in which he also begs for forgiveness) to Jackson when the latter repeatedly refuses to accept it. At this point, I have to think that any sophisticated woman would know that it’s time to get a lawyer involved rather than manufacturing repeated opportunities to see the jerk and giving him the chance to reject her again and again and over and over. It’s not cute, it’s not funny, and it makes me question just how much she really might have learned after all these years.
This is especially true when it comes to Jackson. With the Big Secret still untold, Daisy’s lust for Jackson is so powerful that she actually allows him to do it to her (and that’s how it read to me) on the hood of a car. (Yes, we women are always overcome by lust when facing a huge emotional crisis. I believe, frankly, that in the same situation I would reject a randy Hugh Jackman.) And I ask you: How can you love a man so childish that he “fires up his Black & Decker” and destroys his late mother’s dining room table out of some kind of weird guilt-trip because he and Daisy did it there?
I have to give Jackson one thing. Discovering that someone kept a child hidden from you for 15 years is a big blow and he’s entitled to his anger over that alone. And to be completely fair, I also have to note that he redeems himself ever so slightly when he begins to develop a relationship with young Nathan. But his late in the book (very late in the book) declaration of love for Daisy rang pretty hollow to me, as did his avowed intention to put away his anger. Getting rid of anger this intense is going to require years of therapy, not the power of love.
As for the secondary characters, I wish I knew more about them. Daisy’s mother likes to put tacky stuff on her lawn and Jackson’s brother seems to serve the sole purpose of showing the healthier side of the Parrish brothers. Frankly, with a problematic protagonist taking up so much space in the book, a little more time with likable characters would have added some welcome relief – especially since the subplot involving Daisy’s sister’s stalking of her sleazebag husband was so familiar it even included the obligatory running-her-car-into-the-lowlife’s-house scene.
To be honest, the only relationship I can find with this book to the author of See Jane Score and True Confessions is the undeniable fact that Rachel Gibson knows how to write compulsively readable prose. I may have detested Jackson, but, nevertheless, I kept turning the pages to see just how much lower he could go.
Ultimately, I can’t recommend Daisy’s Back In Town, a very surprising result considering the eagerness with which I first opened the book. Rachel Gibson is a terrific author with an impressive backlist but this one, I think, will be remembered only as an unfortunate footnote to an otherwise noteworthy career.